People, we’re in big trouble.
On the far distant planet of Porno, Emperor Wang the Perverted has his sex ray pointed at Earth and every time he shoots the damned thing everyone goes plum sex-mad crazy. People are fucking in the street. Orgies are piling up everywhere. No one is safe. And the cry goes up, “Is there a hero out there who can save us?”
Too right there is. Name’s Flesh Gordon—who is somehow unaffected by Wang’s porny ray.
That’s just the opener for Michael Benveniste and Howard Ziehm’s schlocky sexploitation flick Flesh Gordon from 1974. If you are cognizant with the original 1930’s Universal serials or have seen the big screen version of Flash Gordon, then you’ll know just exactly how the story goes in this “outrageous parody of yesterday’s superheroes.”
Flesh (Jason Williams) teams up with a young woman called Dale Ardor (Suzanne Fields) and a scientist Dr. Flexi Jerkoff (Joseph Hudgins), who just happens to have a rocket ship ready to blast off to beat the evil Wang (William Dennis Hunt). This unlikely trio zoom off into space, land on Porno, and combat Wang and his band of “raping robots.” Along the way, they encounter Prince Precious (Mycle Brandy) the rightful king of Porno and his band of merry men, Queen Amora (Nora Wieternik), and the Great God Porno—a Ray Harryhausen-type monster voiced by none other than Craig T. Nelson. Thrills, comedy, and sex ensue.
The storyline for Flesh Gordon was so close to the original that Universal Studios at one point actively considered suing the filmmakers for blatant copyright infringement. Benveniste and Ziehm avoided this calamity by simply stating that their film was intended as an “homage” to the original source material. They also had all the advertising material labeled with the caveat that their movie was “Not to be confused with the original Flash Gordon.”
Flesh Gordon was originally intended as a hardcore space age romp with full-on sex but unfortunately “the filming of such material was illegal in Los Angeles at the time it was made (hard as that may be to believe now)”
...to prevent their prosecution for pandering, the filmmakers were forced to surrender all such footage [to] the L.A. vice squad, and Flesh Gordon was released without explicit pornographic content.
The end result was a rather tame sophomorish comic sexploitation movie that somehow managed to win over its audience with its likeable schlocky charm. It’s fair to say that films like Flesh Gordon along with the likes of John Boorman’s Zardoz or Ken Russell’s Lisztomania or even Car Wash and Saturday Night Fever say as much about the free-wheeling hedonistic zeitgeist of the 1970s as gritty films like Taxi Driver, Mean Streets, Get Carter, and The Conversation reflect the converse.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Rude, nude and lewd: Lurid 1970s Sexploitation posters
Another awesome mixtape from 70s-era Sexploitation films
Beyond the Valley of the Lurid Exploitation Film Posters of the 50s, 60s & 70s